By Boban Stojanović (University of Belgrade)
In April, Serbia held early parliamentary elections, the third in the last four years. After early elections in 2014, early parliamentary elections were also held in 2016 (April 24) together with the local elections. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić has decided to go to early elections, with two objectives: to ensure himself a new mandate until 2020 and to raise the result of his party in local elections through joint hold both parliamentary and local elections. Vučić has fulfilled both objectives. The coalition led by Vučić has won more votes than in the elections of 2014 and, although he won fewer mandates, the coalition won enough to form a government. “Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia wins” electoral coalition, led by Aleksandar Vučić’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and formed by the Social Democratic Party (SDPS), the Movement of Socialist (PS), Party of United Pensioners of Serbia, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and New Serbia (NS), won the legislative elections with 48.2 per cent of the votes and 131 seats.
Although, Vučić announced the rapid formation of the government after the elections, it was formed 109 days after the elections and more than 60 days after the constitution of Parliament. Vučić was able to form a government with partners from pre-election coalition without additional partners. However, he decided to invite the runner-up SPS in the ruling coalition, the partners in the two previous government (following the elections in 2012 and 2014). Parliament elected government (August 11) with 163 out of 250 total parliamentary seats.
Thus, Serbia gets a government, that does not differ from the reconstructed government of Ivica Dačić in 2013, and government of Aleksandar Vučić in 2014,. The fact that after early elections nothing has change in Serbia, is confirmed by the fact that the composition of the new Vučić’s government in comparison to the previous government, appear to be only 8 new names, with that, the two new ministers were part of Dačić’s government in the period 2012 – 2014. So that is practically, only six new names in the new Vučić’s government.
It is clear why Vučić has decided to go to early elections – to renew mandate and to win at all local elections. This was shown by the composition of the new government. However, two questions remain to be asked and offer answers: 1) Why Vučić waited so long for the government formation? and 2) How much will the new Vučić’s Government to last and whether it will fulfill the entire mandate?
The reasons why they waited so long to form a government is not known precisely. It has been offered the explanation, that there were great pressures of foreign actors on Vučić. He said there was a chance that he will not be at the forefront of the new government. Vučić stated that the presidential elections are not on his mind, but he stated, that if he ran for the presidential elections, he would win in the first round.
One of the explanation why the government hasn’t been formed immediately is the formation of local governments where the SNS used their republican position for the negotiations at the local level and managed to form a government in almost all local governments.
Delaying of the forming the government offers several answers, but the key reasons for delay could be due to the impact of the upcoming presidential elections (2017) and problems in the capital city – Belgrade, whom shakes serious scandals (the leaders of the City of Belgrade, according to the confession of Aleksandar Vučić, organized a night demolition of private facilities on the territory that is designated for the construction of the Belgrade Waterfront, where people were tied down and deprived of their liberty, the police did not react, and the Prosecution still has not submitted the criminal charges; there were several mass protests against the city government).
Given that presidential elections must be held in the first half of next year, and that the city government has a mandate until 2018 – the first thing we could expected is that, these elections are going to be combined, considering the situation in Belgrade and that it would be disastrous for the SNS if the city elections were being held independently. On the other hand, the current President of the Republic of Serbia and the former leader of SNS Tomislav Nikolić, has lost the support in party and among the citizens, and it is expected that he will not be a SNS candidate for president, because there is a real chance he would lost the elections (public opinion poll from July 2016, has shown that only a 2% of the voters would vote for Nikolić, and convincing majority for Vučić). Vučić must think of himself as a candidate for President.
Therefore, for Vučić, issue of presidential elections is essential and probably the key reason why Serbia has waited this long to get a government. Vučić has a problem because in the party, he does not have enough strong and recognizable candidate for President other than himself. The public opinion poll from 2016 showed that only Nebojša Stefanović is recognizable to the public (Nebojša Stefanović – SNS vice president and minister in the government is recognizable for 85% of citizens, Igor Mirović – SNS vice president only for 15% and Zoran Babić – head of SNS parliamentary group for only 55% of citizens. But Nebojša Stefanović has been actor of many scandals under the previous period (doctoral thesis plagiarism, etc.) so it is certainly that he can’t be a presidential candidate. Also, Vučić is rational and aware that it must not happen that SNS candidate loses the presidential election.
After the new government announced, among the most striking thing is that, there is no place for Nikola Selaković, former Minister of Justice from 2012 to 2016. Selaković is one of the closest associate of Vučić and his long-time man of trust and minister who always has been praised by Vučić. Therefore, there are several scenarios that await Serbia next year and that are telling us, why government formation last that long and why Aleksandar Vučić did not know what to do, so he delay his decision:
1) Next year will be held presidential and city elections in which Nikola Selaković will be presidential candidate by SNS.
2) Next year will be held presidential and city elections in which Vučić will be a presidential candidate, and if he win, Selaković will be the new Prime Minister (Vučić resigns as Prime Minister, the ruling majority in the parliament elected Selaković for Prime Minister).
3) Next year will be held presidential and city elections in which Vučić will be a presidential candidate, and Selaković will be candidate for mayor (in this case, Vučić would set nonpartisan figure to be Prime minister, or someone from the party in whom he also has the trust).
4) Next year will be held presidential, city and parliamentary elections on which Vučić will be presidential candidate and the holder of the SNS electoral lists, and Selaković will be a candidate for mayor.
5) Next year will be held presidential, city and parliamentary elections on which Vučić will not be presidential candidate (Selaković or someone else), only the holder of the SNS electoral lists. On that way, with parliamentary elections Vučić will try to increase result of presidential candidate of SNS.
6) Of course, there is possibility that the next year will be held presidential and city elections (or only presidential elections) in which Vučić or Selaković will not be the presidential candidates. Candidate will be someone else or possibly current President of the Republic of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić. In this case, Vučić will be faced with many internal problems if the candidate of SNS does not win the presidential election.
Regardless of President of the Republic according the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia has no policy authorities and is primarily has protocol functions, method of election of the President (direct election) brings the power of whoever is elected. On the other hand, through the influence in the party, Vučić could control the MPs, elected Prime Minister and the ministers and practically the policy would be led by the President of the Republic (similarly as in the time of the second mandate of President Boris Tadić, in the period 2008 – 2012). For Vučić, in terms of power and influence on policy, there is no aggravating circumstances if the from position of Prime Minister moved to the position of President of the Republic. He will remain the strongest political figure in Serbia. It is possible that new Vučić’s government will not last long.
Accordingly, it is certain that Vučić has long been thought about what is best for him and the party at this point. At the end, he decided to form a government, but it is still not clear what will be position and decisions for the coming election year. Vučić has a difficult decision ahead of him. We can expect denouement in the next 10-months, and it is possible that beside presidential election, could also be city elections, and perhaps even another early parliamentary elections. It will be very turbulent political life in Serbia in the next year.
Photo source: http://rs.n1info.com/a184188/Vesti/Vesti/Sednica-skupstine-o-izboru-Vlade.html